Morning interview with US Congressman Barry Loudermilk

I got a chance to catch up with one of our local representatives today on Bartow’s Morning News. 11th Congressional district representative Barry Loudermilk joined us from D.C. to talk about several current items being discussed in our nation. We discussed President Trump’s order to make the transgender bathroom issue a states-rights issue and not a federal one. We also discussed the protection of the press under the first amendment, about the press choosing sides and dishonesty in general. Additionally, the topic of immigration law was discussed and that Congress has not passed any new laws, the Administration is only enforcing existing law and working on immigration reform.

Trump hopes for the Hollywood ending

trump-press-conferenceHollywood tells all kind of stories. One of the staples of the “Hollywood ending” is when the main character delivers a speech that changes the course of events of the tale. It’s the Aesop’s Fables morality moment where we all come to the same collective understanding that whatever had been happening up to that point was wrong. At the conclusion of the speech, nearly everyone has their road-to-Damascus conversion, admitting the error of their ways and vowing to make a change for the better.

Those moments make for some of the best stories, because we want to believe if the characters in the story can make a change for the best, we all can. Unfortunately, for many, art does not reflect reality.

trump-quote-on-mediaDuring his first press conference since the inauguration, Donald Trump verbally castigated the vast majority of the national press corps and the mainstream media for their creation of fake news. He called them out, right to their faces, vacillating between charismatic humor and stern scolding. He told them how disappointed he and fellow Americans are with their tone and willful obfuscation of the truth. He acknowledged that he will make mistakes and would expect the reporting to be bad; conversely, he said when he does something well, he would expect the media to report something good. Instead, as he noted, the press will take something good and make it sound bad and then take something bad and make it sound worse. He called that fake news.

Then, in a surprising moment of both sincerity and clarity, President Trump stated, “I want to see an honest press. I started off today by saying it’s so important to the public to get an honest press. The public doesn’t believe you people any more.” Had this been a Hollywood movie, the violins would have swelled and we would have been shown a montage of faces all coming to the realization they have been wrong. They would have turned to each other with reflective expressions, before standing and applauding the president for reminding them of who they are. What would follow, after a slow fade, would be a voice-over from one or more reporters, reading from their latest pieces, apologizing to their readers/listeners/viewers for abdicating their duties as dispassionate reporters of facts. They would beg for forgiveness, hoping to convey their sincere change of heart over how they had lost their way.

Sadly, this isn’t a Hollywood movie. The reporters, who would likely gush over a similar scene on the silver screen, were completely oblivious to the message. The hurt feelings and bruised egos were on display across the dial following the press conference. All they cared about was playing out the infantile schoolyard game of, “Oh, yeah, well I think you’re a big, stupid, poo-poo head!”

Am not. Are too!

Beyond the content discussed in President Trumps presser, what he told the media about their role and responsibility was a bulls-eye. The Founding Fathers understood the need to have a free and unfettered press to keep government honest. They toiled for months to craft the Constitution, built on the concept of three separate but co-equal branches of government. These three estates — Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches — were designed to have a specific set of checks and balances to ensure no branch could overrule the other.

But, in face of major concerns from several states about the need for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties, James Madison went to work on drafting the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. The Bill of Rights, as they are now known, lists specific prohibitions on governmental power, with the first protecting, among others, the freedom of the press. Many misinterpret this to mean, the press must publish whatever someone wants heard. This is absurd. There is no “right” to be heard. What the amendment secures is the protection of the press to be free from harm or imprisonment for saying/printing material that might be unfavorable to the government. None of the amendments are there to give people privileges; they are there to declare unalienable rights, which cannot be infringed upon by any part of the government.

As it relates to the press, the framers of our Constitution recognized, even with checks and balances in place, politicians could collude together to avoid following those enumerated rules for how our government should function. By granting the press immunity from government prosecution, they created, in effect, a fourth estate, which exists outside of government. They reasoned, when politicians might be tempted to act outside of the bounds of the Constitution, the press would shed light on those actions and the American public would be informed. Knowing the press is free from government persecution, the members of each branch of government would feel the weight of the all-seeing-eye of providence pressing down on them, helping to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Unfortunately, we have been witness to the slow erosion of the line separating the press and government. It’s become more important to curry favor and keep getting the invites to the social events, rather than being objective with the facts. News is no longer reported. It’s crafted. It’s honed. Impressions can be made by leaving certain facts out while embellishing others. The purveyors of news have, for the most part, become mouthpieces for the sides they like. When members of the press choose the party they like over the party they do not, it is impossible to expect an objective reporting of facts. For all intents and purposes, the majority of the national press corps and the mainstream media has morphed into a propaganda wing for “their” side — the majority of which leans Left.

There is nothing wrong with writing opinion pieces, but that is not the role of the press. I do not classify myself as a “reporter” or a “journalist.” I am not just giving a chronology of events as they occurred. I do look at the facts, then I filter them through knowledge and experience. Once I have had a chance to digest the context, I provide my own thoughts and ideas, tempered with logic and reason, on the news of the day. Like a skilled debater, I am trying to convince my audience, through explanation and illustration, that my point-of-view is solid and above reproach.

This is the problem with the mainstream media. Too many have become covert op-ed writers, not interested in just laying out facts, but instead, creating a narrative, disguised as news, meant to sway the audience. The moment a journalist moves in that direction, they have willfully abdicated their role as reporters of the truth.

It’s not too late to hope for the Hollywood ending. But, as long as the press corps believes their role is to shape the news rather than report on it, they will continue to be manipulated into defending their egos when their machinations are revealed. The more the press loses their mind over the actions of Donald Trump, the less the public will believe anything they have to say.

President Trump challenged them to provide the truth to the American public. If it were a movie, that’s all it would take.

The Joys and Needs of Exhibitionism

Once, before children, there was this beautiful, sunny Sunday. There were no clouds in the sky, the temperature was perfect, there was no reason to be in-doors. Except, one after another, good movies were playing on the television. Movies that I owned on DVD but, for some reason, when they come on all by themselves, I can’t help but watch them. Commercials and all. So after noticing the sun going down and realizing my error in blowing a perfectly good Sunday on the couch, my wife and I decided to cut the cord. Forward to April 2008. I scaled the roof of my house and installed an antenna. Me, slightly afraid of heights, strapped it to the chimney and haven’t been on my roof since.

Initially, my palms sweat when a few days went by and I hadn’t seen a World War II documentary on the History Channel. And I might have had a slight fever when The Learning Channel wasn’t available anymore. Then there were the news channels I could stare at for hours so for awhile, I felt like I didn’t know what was going on in the world. And then a few weeks went by and I forgot about all of it. Six-years later, I still don’t miss the nine-hundred-smörgåsbord-channel offering that is cable.

Why anyone has cable television these days is beyond me. Unless, of course, you’re a sports fan. Then I see why. But as a non-sports person (unless you count fishing), I don’t get spending that kind of money to watch other people have fun. The cheers of “We Won” are more accurate as “We Watched”. Yawn. Now get a game of volleyball or baseball together with friends, I’m in. But a spectator, I am not. I’ll take skinned knees over chicken-fried-greased-fingers.

Spectating in politics is just as boring. If you watch debates, others voting and others voicing their opinions, you have no more stake in the game then, well, the outcome of a game. Yet, unlike a sporting event where, at best, you might lose a few dollars and gain a few pounds, in politics, failure to engage means the end result is you being governed by someone else’s ideas. At least if you play the game of politics, you have the right to complain. Failure to engage, and you have the right to eat cake.

I find the same joy (if you will) in literature. Avid reading is great but I also enjoy writing my own. My own opinions in essays and, although lacking as of late, in fiction, is another form of participation. Voyeurism is a fine fetish. But the real kicks are in Exhibitionism.

I’ve been away from Freedom Cocktail for longer than usual. A cyst on my liver, that my doctors had been watching, finally grew and needed to be taken out. But no worries. I have good doctors who are paid well and wish to keep their reputations solid. You see, if you pay a doctor an extraordinary wage, they’ll do extraordinary things. Anyhow…while away on mutation leave, I spent seven nights, six days hospitalized. There is nothing to do in the Intensive Care Unit but piss in a container, monitor your blood pressure and watch cable television. I was able to see what I’ve been missing. I spent most of said time finding out that the History Channel has turned into an advertisement for a pawn shop. And the news channels aren’t doing any, ANY investigative reporting. The drone of what passes for twenty-four-hour news bores me to tears. Fox and Friends is less informative than Michael and Kelly and O’Reilly still interrupts his guests (and published a terribly inaccurate book on Jesus). I made such a right decision in 2008 to cut the cord. I can’t believe anyone is still paying for this.

Government to the rescue!

The Federal Communications Commission is going nose-in on the Fourth Estate. Plants are being placed in major news networks to find out what and why said networks decide to report on. Why does one network hammer on whether Hillary is going to make a run and the other nails out who Kim Kardashian is filming sex with? The FCC wants to know. And the purpose is to, supposedly, make sure the American public is getting proper, critical information. This isn’t the first time the feds got into dictating public information. A few decades ago, we got passage of the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act which set out to increase educational programming, again in the interest of the American public. Note: This does not mean the public is exposed to all sides of an argument. This means programming is determined based on a few individuals who make up the deciding cabinet. And although this is already true, as corporate news executives are currently the ones deciding what to report on, at the moment, if you don’t like said programming, you can simply change the channel. But if government begins to dictate on every channel, you won’t have the choice. Just as every car must come with an air bag, every television newscast may come with a public service announcement that cigarettes are bad.

In a prior piece, I noted how poorly the Fourth Estate was handling the real problem that we call Benghazi. I argued (and will continue to argue) that in that case, the real problem was Muslim Fascism and it was swept aside to avoid being offensive. Now, put a government agency in the Fourth Estate and…volia, you might not even hear the word Benghazi. Especially if someone doesn’t want you to. I really hate using sentences like that. Makes it look like I’m wearing my tin hat, spinning conspiracy theories. But when the FCC infiltrates news organizations for the purpose of making sure the American public is getting the proper information to meet critical needs, we can only assume that government dictated non-critical material falls by the wayside. And, of course, in a situation like this, it is never you who decides what is critical or not.

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, it appears the news networks are giving the government every reason to step in, and the public may welcome it with such poor professional oversight. As of recent, two fake news reports got spit out without any investigation by the news agencies. Late night comic, Jimmy Kimmel, put one over with a fake video of a wolf wandering its way into a hotel in Sochi. And an Atlanta radio station faked a protest about Justin Bieber allegedly moving there. Both stories were picked up by the major news networks and run as if they were real. No fact checking. Just regurgitation. If this continues, the networks may hand government all the reason to want in.

So I’m afraid (and slightly pleased) that you will have to become your own reporter. You will have to do fact checking. The Internet can be useful here although it is sometimes used for evil. Whereas prior to the InterWebs we, in the United States, were locked into the papers that made it to our doors, now, we can review International and freelance work. That is, if you care to take the time. If it’s important to you, I encourage you to do so. But don’t just watch, DO. Share your findings especially if they differ from the “official” story. Become an Exhibitionist. The more speaking up we can do in defense of getting all the information, the less Snopes has to do. Plus, quite simply, spectating is just plain boring. Jump in to the world. Go exploring and don’t be afraid to show off what you found.

As I mentioned, I’m on a mutation leave of absence from work. With no cable television to clog up my day, I have all the time in the world to chat with you, dear readers @ericwojo via Twitter if you wish. Oh, and I have a little petition that’s not getting much love over at Change.org. Maybe pop on over, sign it…free speech and all.